A local Rabbi has recently been accused of secretly observing women as they prepared for the Mikvah. My first reaction was to feel defiled and betrayed, not because this Rabbi might have seen me naked at the Mikvah for my conversion, but because anyone might have insinuated himself (or herself) into such an intensely personal moment.
I checked to see if it was the Mikvah I had used at a Conservative synagogue. It was not. I felt sick to discover it was a well-respected Orthodox Rabbi at an Orthodox Mikvah–and one who had been a Rabbi for 25 years at that. It’s not that I expect Conservative and Reform Rabbis to be voyeuristic perverts. It’s that I never expected an Orthodox Rabbi to be a voyeuristic pervert.
Upon reflection, I’d have to say I hold an Orthodox Rabbi to a higher level for two reasons. One is just plain moral decency. The other is that anyone espousing that level of religious observance had better do more than talk the talk. Until now, it was not within my scope of possibilities for any Rabbi, let alone an Orthodox Rabbi, to behave in this way, just as it was not within the scope of possibilities for a Pope to resign.
I was stunned to see a woman defending this Rabbi on a news report. As far as I remember, she said we must remember that he is a genius and an inspired leader. Really? That makes it okay? It certainly doesn’t for me.
My time at the Mikvah was integral to a moment that remains one of them most significant and personal moments of my life. That anyone would ever dare to intrude on such a moment is beneath contempt.
You want to talk Torah at Shabbat dinner but you’re not sure where to start? The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) has a site with everything you need to get you started and keep you going. Family Shabbat Table Talk has all the portions with comments, possible questions, and materials for additional study. (On their site, click on the name of the book of the Torah in the sidebar on the left to see the portions.) It’s an easy way to get you started.
The site says, “For each week, Family Shabbat Table Talk includes: 1] the title of the parasha and a citation so that you may find the full text in your own copy of the Torah; 2] a couple of sentences about the theme for the sefer; 3] an excerpt from the Torah text that will be the focus of discussion; 4] a short d’rash (teaching) on the text; 5] two or three questions each for children ages 3-5 and children ages 6-8; and 6] a suggestion for deeper study geared toward sophisticated learners and those who wish to spend more time on the topic.”
There are also tips for leading the discussion each week.
I’ve used this with my own children. At first it seemed a bit awkward, but they soon got the idea that we would be talking about Torah at dinner. Once they took to it, it was fun. It was definitely worth the small amount of effort it took to get it all started.
Our story begins… “In 1984, a group of eight young feminists at Oberlin College created “A Women’s Haggadah.”” There were 200 women at the seder and they wanted to use language that included the voices of the women who had come before them in Judaism. Part of the inclusion they sought was inclusion for lesbians and gays. Continue reading →
Thin skin and interfaith marriage do not make for a healthy combination. I know this because when I was first married, and then again when I was first converted, I’m pretty sure I was the Princess and the Pea of anything to do with interfaith life. I also know, given my personal history, I came by this honestly. But really. That wasn’t who I wanted to be. I’ve worked hard to appreciate that the things that seem insensitive to me are often parts of a religion that does not actively seek converts, working to find a way to integrate people from a variety of backgrounds into their religious life. At this point, I get it that it’s not easy on either side. Continue reading →
These are the things that no one has probably thought to tell you about conversion in the Reform movement. You’ll be glad to know them. Believe me.
In conversion class, when you get to the page with the Thirteen Articles of Maimonides, do not get excited. Do not highlight them and think you have found the answer to what you need to know about Judaism. This is just one opinion of one man at one time in his life. Judaism does not lay things out in a neat list like this. Read more
Things you need to know about conversion in the Reform movement:
You will study with your rabbi for about a year. You may also take a conversion class with people from several different movements and synagogues. The rabbis from the various congregations may take turns leading these classes. It’s a good opportunity to discover and discuss the difference in observance by different movements.
There is a lot to read and think about. Some of the books will be about conversion. Some will be about Judaism. There will be Jewish history and also at least a bit of Hebrew.
I never intended to become Jewish. When I read the interfaith books that were available before my marriage and realized that many times they’d been written by women who had converted after years of marriage, I vowed I’d always maintain my identity. It wasn’t until years later that I began to understand what might have led those women to make the decision they had. Read more
This blog is for those of us who have chosen Judaism or are exploring ways in which Judaism will be a part of your life. After many years in an interfaith marriage, I chose to convert and discovered there is a lot to learn about Judaism. There is also a lot to learn about yourself – especially about yourself as a Jew. For me, once the decision to convert was made, I was calm and settled about it. Because of that, I was surprised to find I felt something was missing once I converted.
I mean, I stepped out of the mikvah with plenty of knowledge of what Jews do, but no real insight into what I would do as a Jew. What followed was a period of extended study and questioning, along with experimentation with different aspects of Judiasm. Ultimately I came to an appreciation of myself as a Jewish woman.
This category of this site has information for those who have wrestled with similar issues – or not. Please comment about your experiences and feel free to suggest topics for future posts.